35 Things To Do in Gainesville, Florida, with Kids

Cheer on the Gators in Gainesville, FL! Photo by the author
Cheer on the Gators in Gainesville, FL! Photo by the author
9/25/21 - By Charlotte B

Gainesville, Florida, may be known as a college town, but there are so many other things to do in this city north of Orlando—and much of it is perfect for families and kids. As a Florida native and a University of Florida graduate (Go Gators!), I love to take the trip to Gainesville, FL, with my kiddos whenever I get the chance.

Here are some of our favorite activities and attractions in and around Gainesville, FL. From outdoor activities and sports, to museums and festivals, you are sure to find something that peaks your family's interest.

For more fun destinations for families around the Sunshine State, visit our Florida Family Travel Guide.


Best Things To Do with Kids in Gainesville, FL

1. Florida Museum of Natural History

This museum on the University of Florida campus offers free admission and includes several interactive exhibits. The highlight of this attraction is the Butterfly Rainforest with hundreds of free-flying butterflies and birds (Note: There is an admission fee for the Butterfly Rainforest).

2. Florida Gators Sports

Don your orange and blue and cheer on the hometown team at a Florida Gators sporting event. Choose from football, baseball, gymnastics, and many more spectator sports around campus. You may even spot Albert and Alberta (the Gators' mascots) for a photo op!

3. Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo

Visit over 70 different animal species at this 10-acre teaching zoo.

4. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens

Pack a picnic and spend the day strolling the gardens at this 68-acre facility, which features a butterfly garden, children's garden, waterfalls, arboretum, playground, woodland trails, sinkholes, and more.

Climb the hundreds of steep stairs in Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park. Photo courtesy of the park

5. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park

Venture into a miniature rainforest created by a sinkhole at this popular state park.

6. Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation

Book a tour to visit with and learn about the 25 species of exotic animals that live at this conservation facility.

7. Sweetwater Wetlands Park

Spot alligators and birds at this man-made wetland habitat.

Take in in the lush view and amazing wildlife at Paynes Prairie. Photo courtesy of the prairie

8. Paynes Prairie

Bison and wild horses roam the prairie at this state park. Visitors will also see an abundance of alligators along the parks eight trails.

9. University of Florida Bat Houses

See the world’s largest occupied bat houses right on the University of Florida campus, across from Lake Alice. Watch them emerge on warm evenings, just after sunset.

10. Depot Park

Formerly a railroad transportation hub, this park in downtown Gainesville boasts a playground, blue grotto splash pad, promenade, and conservation area. The park is also host to many weekly, monthly, and annual events.

Check out a drag race at the Gainesville Raceway. Photo courtesy of the speedway

11. Gainesville Raceway

Take the family to the famous Gatornationals annual drag racing event at the Gainesville Raceway.

12. Cade Museum

Located next to Depot Park, the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention offers hands-on exhibits, educational programs, and creativity labs. Fun fact: It is named after Dr. James Robert Cade, a University of Florida professor and the lead inventor of Gatorade.

13. Oaks Mall

For some indoor fun, head to the Oaks Mall to play, dine, and shop. There is an indoor play area perfect for tots.

14. Hippodrome

Book tickets to a show at this historical theater in downtown Gainesville, FL.

15. Splitz Bowling

Challenge your family to a game of bowling at this family-owned bowling alley complete with an arcade, laser tag, and a bar and grill.

16. Haile Homestead

Explore this historic homestead, known for its “talking walls” – over 12,000 words inscribed by the Haile family on walls all throughout the house.

17. Harn Museum of Art

Located on the University of Florida campus, adjacent to the Florida Museum of Natural History, this art museum houses over 40,000-square-feet of exhibition space with a diverse collection of art pieces, photography, and natural history works on paper.

18. Kika Silva Pla Planetarium

Enjoy an interactive planetarium show on topics including astronomy, meteorology, geology, and more.

19. Jest Fest

Known as "The Greatest Show in Gainesville," Jest Fest is an annual free event that occurs each spring. It boasts the World Famous Flying Wallendas and other circus performers, puppets, musicians, and more.

20. Skate Station Funworks

Spend a family fun day at Skate Station Funworks, featuring a skating rink, bounce houses, swamp golf, rock climbing, go-karts, and a three-story kids play structure.

Spend the day swimming and splashing in the 15,000-square-foot wave pool at Kulaqua River Ranch Water Park.

21. Kulaqua River Ranch Water Park

Kulaqua Retreat opens its water park to the public certain days throughout the year. Float along the lazy river, take a trip down the water slide, and splash in a 15,000-square-foot wave pool.

22. Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens

This picturesque botanical garden features waterfalls, koi ponds, wooden bridges, and more than 50 garden displays.

23. Morningside Living History Farm

Experience 1800s Florida life at Morningside Living History Farm. On Thanksgiving weekend each year, the farm hosts a popular Cane Boil and FiddleFest event.

24. Mudslinger Tours

Take a guided fossil tour around the creeks of Gainesville for shark teeth and more.

25. Bouncers Indoor Playground

Not only does Bouncers boast an indoor playground, it also has an outdoor play area as well.

26. Lubee Bat Conservancy

This nonprofit is dedicated to saving bats and their habitats through education, research, and conservation. The center houses endangered bats, and visitors can schedule tours to learn more about these amazing animals. 

27. Gainesville Solar Walk

This 4-billion-to-1 scaled model of our solar system spans nearly a mile along NW 8th Ave. Each sculpture was designed using recycled materials, with informational plaques at each one. This walk is a fun, interactive way for kids (and adults) to learn about the planets.

28. Flip Factory Zone

Kids can jump and play their energy out at this indoor entertainment center featuring a multi-level trampoline deck, ninja course, two-story laser tag, toddler zone, rope course, four-story indoor jungle gym, and more.

Ballyhoo Bananas Foster. Photo by the author

Family-Friendly Restaurants in Gainesville, FL

29. Ballyhoo Grill

Our family trips to Gainesville are not complete without a trip to Ballyhoo Grill. The food is delicious, and the bananas foster (cooked right at your table) is a must for dessert!

30. Dave & Buster’s

Play and dine at this famous restaurant chain known for its arcade games.

31. One Love Café

Savor farm-to-table foods at this outdoor patio Gainesville restaurant and café. Kids can enjoy yard games such as tether ball, corn hole, and a sandbox.

32. Satchel’s Pizza

Eat under a plane, in a van, or in a greenhouse with beautiful stained glass at this one-of-a-kind pizza establishment. There’s also a playground for the kids.

Cool off from the heat of summer with a dip in the pool when you stay at Hotel Indigo.

Hotels in Gainesville, FL, and More Great Places to Stay 

33. Hotel Indigo

Gainesville's Hotel Indigo features spacious music-themed guest rooms and an outdoor pool, and is located in the heart of Celebration Pointe, with a variety of shops and restaurants from which to choose.

34. Hilton University of Florida Conference Center

Conveniently located on the University of Florida’s campus, this hotel is just across the street from the Florida Museum of Natural History. Hotel amenities include an outdoor pool, fitness center, and an onsite restaurant.

35. Sweetwater Branch Inn

This historic bed and breakfast in downtown Gainesville features a saltwater pool, putting green, onsite bike rentals, and gardens to explore. Accommodations include guest suites and private cottages.

Find more great cities to visit with the kids in our Cities Travel Guide.